Texans’ DeAndre Hopkins could benefit from change at quarterback
Training camp preview: The AFC South
Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has nothing left to prove. After four productive seasons, Hopkins clearly is a baller.
But even ballers have to bounce back from time to time.
Hopkins had a solid season in 2016, catching 78 passes for 954 yards and four touchdowns. Not bad at all. It’s just that Hopkins was much better in 2015: 111 receptions, 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Hopkins’ targets decreased substantially under former Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler. Hopkins and Osweiler simply didn’t connect. Osweiler rarely connected with any Houston receivers during his brief tenure in Houston.
But no matter who’s throwing passes for the Texans, Hopkins will have to be better after the catch. His 2.3 yards after the catch over the past two seasons ranks as second-worst in the NFL among 156 qualified receivers, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
We look at the AFC South in order of predicted finish this season.
Training camp location: White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
Report dates: Rookies and veterans, July 27
Look out for this guy: Maybe rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson won’t shine in camp. Perhaps he’ll struggle in the preseason. Tom Savage definitely could start for the Texans, whose roster is loaded. Then again, Watson just may jump right into the role he was drafted to eventually fill. If Watson shows he’s ready to grab the keys, well, the Texans would like that. The rest of the division wouldn’t feel similarly.
Camp watch: The Texans will throw a lot at Watson in camp. How will he adjust to the speed of the NFL? How long will it take him to become comfortable with the playbook? Will he learn quickly from mistakes? The answers to those questions will help determine where Watson begins the season on the depth chart.
Training camp location: Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, Indianapolis
Report dates: Rookies, July 24; veterans, July 29
Look out for this guy: Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who has steadily become one of the league’s best players at his position, led the NFL in receiving yards last season. Hilton has worked hard on his route running. He’s great at getting separation. After the catch, he’s about as good as it gets. That’s why he’s quarterback Andrew Luck’s go-to guy.
Camp watch: The Colts needed help in the secondary. In the first round, they drafted former Ohio State safety Malik Hooker. He was great against the pass in college. If Hooker can hold it down from the start in camp, the Colts’ defense will benefit.
Training camp location: Saint Thomas Sports Park, Nashville, Tennessee
Report dates: Rookies and veterans, July 28
Look out for this guy: Rookie wide receiver Corey Davis could form a highly productive partnership with quarterback Marcus Mariota. Davis was considered one of the most NFL-ready wideouts in the draft. It wouldn’t be surprising if he quickly emerged as a key part of the Titans’ passing game.
Camp watch: At the University of Southern California, Adoree’ Jackson was a spectacular returner and cornerback. There just aren’t many players who possess Jackson’s combination of speed and all-around athleticism. He should make an immediate impact on special teams. However, Jackson may lack the strength to be a full-time cornerback. His performance against receivers in camp should be telling.
Training camp location: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida
Report dates: Rookies, July 19; veterans, July 26
Look out for this guy: Rookie running back Leonard Fournette seemed to make highlight-worthy plays during every game at LSU. The Jaguars are counting on him to be just as dynamic at the highest level of the sport. Fournette, a speedy power runner, has the talent to be an NFL superstar. There’s no doubt about that.
Camp watch: There’s a lot of buzz around Fournette, but will the Jaguars’ offensive line do its part? There are no solo artists in the NFL. That’s not how this works.
NEXT: AFC West